Russia is going ahead with plans to deliver Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to Myanmar’s increasingly isolated military regime, Deutsche Welle reported quoting a top defense cooperation official.
Moscow has continued to support Myanmar with arms deals and military delegation visits following the ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint this year.
Min Aung Hlaing’s deepening alliance with Russia — to offset China’s influence — has not been lost on Myanmar academics specializing in military affairs. The academics, who requested anonymity, trace this turn to tense China-Myanmar military history until the late 1980s, Beijing’s role in the ongoing ethnic conflicts along the Myanmar-China border and faulty Chinese-made military hardware.
“Min Aung Hlaing is personally distrustful of the Chinese,” the diplomat said. “Only China presents an existential threat to Myanmar — not Russia.”
According to Deutsche Welle, Dmitry Shugayev, the chief of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said Russia “continues to implement plans” toward delivering Su-30 jets and Yak-130 training aircraft to Myanmar.
Russia had agreed to sell six Su-30 aircraft to Myanmar in 2018, when the army was in the middle of a military offensive against Rohingya militants that the United Nations called ethnic cleansing.
Shugayev added that Myanmar’s air force currently operates Russian-made Yak-130 and MiG-29 fighter jets.
After the military coup in February, Russian customs data showed the Myanmar junta importing $14.7 million in radar equipment that month. That followed the delivery of $96 million worth of classified defense-related goods in December.
International watchdogs say Myanmar has spent $807 million on Russian arms imports over the past decade, making Russia the country’s No. 2 military exporter after China.
During his visit to Naypyitaw in January, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu agreed to supply Myanmar with Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems, Orlan-10E surveillance drones and radar equipment.
The United States has suspended a trade deal with Myanmar until democratic leadership is restored and several Singaporean companies, including a firm that sold anti-drone products to Myanmar’s police, have canceled their deals.
The European Union has accused Russia of blocking a coordinated international response to the Feb. 1 coup in Myanmar and the turmoil it has faced since. Rights groups meanwhile accuse Moscow of “legitimizing” the country’s “brutal and unlawful attempted coup.”
China accounted for 50% of Myanmar’s major arms imports from 2014 to 2019, including warships, combat aircraft, armed drones, armored vehicles and air defense systems, said Wezeman of the Stockholm peace institute. Russia supplied 17% of military imports, “mainly in the form of combat aircraft and combat helicopters.”
The institute’s database confirms that Myanmar’s weapons bill for 2010-19 reached $2.4 billion, including $1.3 billion in Chinese-supplied arms and $807 million from Russia. The Russian combat aircraft among Myanmar’s new military assets are the MiG-29, SDu-30MK and JF-17 and the training craft K-8, Yak-130 and G 120TP.
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